Twilight Zone Comics (1963)

Gold Key published four Twilight Zone issues in 1963. 

Let's have a look at 'em.

Issue 2 opens with "The Lost Colonie," wherein a telephone lineman from 1962 discovers (you guessed it) a lost colony from 1662 while working underground. The people in the past built their underground city to "escape Peter Stuyvesant, the tyrant of Nieuw Amsterdam." The lineman uses his flashlight to bedazzle the people of the past and escapes by retracing his steps back to the hole punctured in the timestream, a la "All Our Yesterdays."

Serling, always with the cheery suggestions.

The second story is the weakest of the three, but it's still fun. (More or less how I feel about every one of these stories in issues 2- 5). An old timer has a silver watch given to him by General Custer, which allows him to time travel. 

There's more, but 'nuff said. ("One side, ya stomachlobbers - Irish buggy baby comin' through!" and other Old-Timey-49-er dialogue.)

The third story is classic TZ: TOS fare. A man wakes up in spacesuit with apparent amnesia after a rocket crash. He looks for his friends and instead discovers three apelike creatures. They are his friends, transformed by the rays of Phobos - which some believe to be an artificial satellite constructed for this purpose - into creatures capable of surviving on Mars. (It really is remarkable how many times this theme comes around in science-fiction, on Mars especially.) He refuses to live as some damn ape-man and tears off his suit to let the atmosphere kill him. Instead, he wakes up in a hospital bed, on Earth, the first man to complete one hundred successful orbits. As such, he has been selected to lead the mission to Mars. He recognizes his new crewmates as the apes from his dream, and further - 

Fun stuff. All stories written by Leo "the Dorf" Dorfman and illustrated by Giovanni Ticci and Alberto Giolitti, all of whom has prolific Silver Age profiles in the industry.
Issue 3 features art by fellow Silver Age (and beyond) legends Alex Toth and Mike Sekowsky. The writing credits are to the best of my knowledge unknown. The issue opens with:

Another one that would have fit right into the Original Series's imdb. A WW2 soldier is blasted into the past by a tremendous explosion and rescued by a "special squadron." They outfit and arm him but seem odd to him, somehow. When they come across a German position that has a squad pinned down, they form a bayonet charge and take them out, then disappear. 

Naturally they're the Lost Squadron of this particular battlefield, always willing to lend a hand to a doughboy separated from his squad.

Next up is "Birds of a Feather," another one where you can more or less guess the ironic ending in store from the first couple of panels. There is, however, a tad more to the story. 

I enjoyed this one, particularly the art.

The last story is the one from the cover, "The Queen Is Dead - Long Live the Queen." 

Another fun one.
Spoiler alert:

This last one has a little bit in common with Season 5's "Queen of the Nile", which also aired in 1964. I don't know if such a thing was coordinated - probably not.

Onto issue 4, which could be the best of the '63 offerings. (More art by Sekowsky and Toth, and stories by Paul S. Newman. Possibly some other writers, too - it can be tricky tracking down Gold Key writer info.) The first story, "The Secret of the Key" is another time travel affair. A man in Paris overhears a shopkeeper telling a customer that he has a gold key that is not for sale at any price. Intrigued, the man steals the key, and when chased by the gendarmes, he uses it on a door that appears in the middle of a brick wall. (Like one does.) He materializes in Revolutionary France where he is first chased by the mob, then ends up (!) in the private chambers of Marie Antoinette. (That's about as probable as hopping the White House fence to evade some ruffians and sneaking in the Oval Office bathroom window or something, but hey.) The queen mistakes him for her husband, then uses his resemblance to her advantage. 

After drugging him, she and Louis XVI swap the stranger for the king, and it is the stranger who makes his date with Madame Guillotine at the Place de la Concorde.

I basically will watch or read anything set during the French Revolution, so maybe I find this one a little more fascinating than it deserves. (Sidenote - is it just me or are people totally uninterested in the French Revolution? Seems un-American to me, as counter-inuitive as that might sound on the face of it. One revolution reflected the other.) It feels like it should be a Night Gallery segment. I have that reaction to a lot of Gold Key TZs, actually.

The next story brought to mind "Black Leather Jackets" from the series. A reporter is sent to cover the opening of a hot new club, which he does, but upon arrival discovers it's all a front for an alien takeover. 

A brief morality tale ("The Captive") is next. This one is actually pretty cool despite being seemingly Frankenstein'd from a half-dozen other Twilight Zone stories.

"Local jerk receives supernaturally ironic comeuppance."

Issue 4 comes to a close with:

You have to admire any plot that follows a progression like this: a US Navy pilot crashes into the Pacific during WW2. He awakens in a strange chamber attended by a beautiful woman, who reveals that he is now a guest in the underwater kingdom of King Neptune. He refuses to stay and must earn his freedom by passing King Neptune's gauntlet - a test of strength against the most fearsome creatures at his disposal.

He does and wakes up in the sick bay of a US transport, his seaweed headband admired by the officers in charge. He claims to not remember anything while offering a silent prayer of thanks to Trina, the lady-fish who nursed him to health. 

If Issue 4 isn't the best of the '63 TZs, it has to be issue 5. (Written by Leo Dorfman, art by Mike Sekowsky, Tom Gill, and Frank Thorne.) The cover story was memorably summarized in the comments section last time by Friend of the Omnibus ChrisC. He was going from memory, though, and a few of the details turned out to be (only slightly) different. Race Corey (what a name!) and Anson are wanted thieves holing up in the Corey Family mansion, long since abandoned and dilapidated. The family legend is that an ancestor made a fortune as a smuggler during the War Between the States and that the money is hidden somewhere on the property. That night, Race has a dream where his ancestor shows him where to find it. The next day, lo and behold - there it is! Right where the ghost said it would be. 

It's all Confederate currency, but also included are the currency plates with which the pair can reproduce authentic dinero for Civil War buffs and currency collectors.

Alas, while hiding out as wagon-wheel bumpkins after accidentally murdering one of their customers, they drift into a remote and misty valley where they unknowingly drift back through time. They are set upon by a Confederate patrol, who quickly discovers the currency plates in their possession and has them executed by a firing squad.

Time traveling to the Confederacy almost never works.

The other stories are each a hoot. The shortest is "The Shadow of Fate," which is your standard ghost-saves-the-Queen-of-England-from-fiery-train-wreck tale. "The Legacy of Hans Burkel" is the story of the title character, a bad luck sailor on a Nazi U-Boat of the damned.

Fantastic Sekowsky art.

And lastly, there's "Poor Little Sylvester." Sylvester is an orphan and heir to a great fortune. The stipulations of his inheritance call for him to share it with any caretaker who safely sees him to adulthood and provides him with anything his heart desires along the way. 

Sylvester is interested in everything, which leads to a house full of clutter for the aunt and uncle looking after him.
They're happy to go along with his whims until he orders the Space Warp Converter from the Sugar Globs Company.

Sylvester activates the Converter but can't get it to work. After tinkering with it, though, he manages to send one of his aunt's lamps to Altair-4 into deep space. 

When they threaten to abandon Sylvester and empty the house of all valuables for their troubles, Sylvester takes matters into his own hands.

You've got to wonder - did Stephen King see this comic? Did it sit like a piece of sea grit in the clamshell of his imagination, one day to turn into the pearl of David and Hilly Brown from The Tommyknockers? The stories are different enough - no one's suggesting he plagiarized it or anything silly. Just wondering if King - a comics fan and familiar enough with the Twilight Zone - ever came across this story back in the day and filed the idea away for later.

Keys to Knowledge this time around include entertaining asides on : The Sea (Island Life and Coral Fish), Roads and Vehicles (Primitive Transportation the Roman road), Electricity, and Encryption and Archaeology.     


See you next time. 


  1. 1. That issue with Custer's Time Traveling watched just begged to be a TV series at one point.

    2. Am I the only one who wonders if that Apes on Mars story was later put to good use by Serling and Charlton Heston?

    3. "Birds of a Feather" sounds almost like an Avian version of "The Cats of Ulthar" by Lovecraft.

    4. This is one student of history who knows about the importance of the French Revolution. The real question is how come ours produced order, and theirs resulted in chaos. Anyway, I like how the protagonist's name is Noir. As in Guy Noir, Private Eye, by Garrison Keillor? Yes I'm old, but I'm not that old!

    5. Well, I'm glad my memory got some of it right. I like how the drummer looks like an Angel of Death figure.

    6. I really can't say I know where King got the idea for the idea for Dave and Hilly (as in Joe Hill?). However it does seem like an interesting hypothesis.


    1. Let me work backwards through those:

      6. Did I get the character names wrong? I think I might have. (Runs to check) Oh good, no, I had 'em right. David and Hilly from The Tommyknockers. David (with some help from the buzz from the ship) sends his younger brother to Altair-4. It jumped out at me in the reading of this TZ story, but perhaps not so much from the panels I picked. And of course, both ideas could simply be the siblings of a common parent/ sci-fi trope. Just something to mention is all. (Any excuse to bring up The Tommyknockers!)

      5. Yeah that angel of death detail made me wonder, too. I'd say you got most of it right - pretty good for a story you described not having read in many a year.

      4. This from Jacques! And I love Guy Noir, too.

      And 1-3 Absolutely, could be, and haven't read it but I'll take your word for it.

  2. (1) Peter Stuyvesant seems like he was a right bastard.

    (2) When we finally colonize Mars, I think there has GOT to be some sort of official recognition for that scene from "Total Recall." I don't know what form that would take, but if we all start thinking about it now, I feel certain we will come up with something good.

    (3) "Impossible, Sergeant? Not in THE TWILIGHT ZONE!" I like how comic-book Serling is a bit more cartoonish in his declarations. It works for the medium.

    (4) Is there any info on the extent to which Serling was involved with these comics? On the one hand, it seems likely that his involvement was nonexistent; on the other hand, just from these descriptions it sounds like most of them have a genuine Twilight Zone feel (which is to say that they feel like Serling to some degree). I wouldn't be totally shocked if he read them and approved them before publication.

    (5) Americans seem almost wholly disinterested in France in general; not merely the Revolution. All I can vouch for is myself, of course; and with me, it's like a lot of things -- the interest is there, but the knowledge (or pursuit of it) is not. Come robot-body time, that might eventually change.

    (6) "If my experiment works, I will set up brainwashing centers all over your world in many disguises." Recent anecdotal evidence inclines me to believe that the experiment worked.

    (7) Speaking of Night Gallery, I have had the first season on DVD for years (having bought it for the Spielberg-directed episodes). But recently, I saw the second and third seasons at Walmart for a good price, so I scooped them up, and will savor them one of these days; oh yes I will.

    (8) The plot of "The Ordeal of Bluebird 3" seems almost like the setup for a superhero origin story; or, more than that, almost an Americanized version of some Greek myth. Those are kind of the same thing, I guess.

    (9) The panel that includes the giant squid is great. The squid looks kind of depressed, though; he probably never gets to win those fights.

    (10) "Sugar Globs"! Jesus, those'd probably sell.

    (11) I think that if your headcanon wants to say that lamp went to Altair IV, there is nobody who can deny it.

    (12) I would not be even the tiniest bit surprised if King had read this comic and his brain eventually put part of it to use. I'd find that to be charming.

    (13) Reading of the sad fates of the moa and dodo gives me an idea for a story in which a time-traveling entrepreneur makes a fortune going back in time and bringing back extinct animals to breed and slaughter so that people can have dodo burgers and moa steaks and whatnot. You know it'd work. Shit, man, I'd try a fried dodo breast; you bet I would!

    1. (2) I am for making "Total Recall" some kind of Mars foundational / instructional-video altogether. Or the mythology of a new glorious Martian Age.

      (4) I don't think much at all, but I don't know for sure. I keep digging for more info on the Gold Key TZs but it's relatively under-discussed out there. That I've found as of yet anyway.

      (5) C'est vrai. Just now, for example, I was reading about the French elections and I started to skim before I was even out of the first paragraph. I'm interested in theory, but... I already forgot who was who and what I read. I have better luck with French history and films. Like you say, tho, a robot body would solve a lot of problems.

      (7) Nice. It's an inferior show to something like the Twilight Zone (TOS or 80s version) but it's fun. You can browse through all the paintings at the nightgallery.net site, as well. Until they open a proper museum for them, that's the best we got.

      (8) - (10) - I heartily agree.

      (11) - (12) - me, too.

      (13) I am not only intrigued by this idea, I keep trying to crack this time-travel story in my head I want to write, and something like this is part of its tableau. I hadn't specifically come round to Dodo Burgers and Moa Steaks, but now I can see it quite clearly. Now to just write the damn thing. (Spoiler alert: But Bryan Listened to More Sade and the Day Got Away from Him... Again...)